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Joana Flor Tavares


I am a marine scientist currently working towards a PhD in earth system science at the University of California Irvine. I am a strong believer in the power of storytelling as means to foster environmental stewardship, empower communities, and catalyze the major systemic changes we so urgently need to address local issues and global crises. 

I was born and raised in Brazil, and it was there that I started my career in science. I received a Bachelor’s in oceanography from the Federal University of Rio Grande in 2005 and after that I came to the University of Delaware where I got a Master’s degree in Marine Science and Policy. Upon graduation, I accepted a position as Research Specialist in Hawaii’s Division of Aquatic Resources and worked there for a couple of years. Then in 2010, love brought me to California. Here, I started teaching at community colleges and working with local non-profit organizations. I also started exploring science communication. I took film classes, and studied communication theory, eventually producing a short film, and co-publishing a paper on the importance of narratives for effective climate communication.  

Nowadays, when I am not in the lab or in the field working on my research thesis, I organize and attend climate rallies, read and write poems, film and edit videos, and give talks about climate action. I am currently geeking out on Solar Punk and exploring new collaborations with artists, activists, and other scientists. When climate anxiety takes the best of me, I grab my daughter Elena (8) and our dog Buddha (6) and we head to ocean, which is where I always feel most at home.


Woman wearing a black shirt and white cap standing on a beach and showing a banded coral shrimp that she is holding on her hand
Photo credit: Odara Menezes

University of California, Irvine

Fellowship Sponsor: Heising-Simons Foundation

Fellowship Host: The San Luis Obispo Tribune